UAE-based speciality falafel chain Just Falafel could be the world's biggest franchised retailer of the fried Middle Eastern delicacy, its founders said on Thursday.
The company is now reviewing overtures from potential franchise partners, with the aim of running up to 75 stores in the UAE alone over the next five years.
"Falafel fever gripped the UAE in 2010 and in response, Just Falafel has invested in an international-level standardization programme for our store operations, including falafel production, store presentation, and management enhancements to ensure a fresh, healthy and professional customer experience in all of our outlets," said Mohamad Bitar, Just Falafel's Founder and Managing Director.
Last year, the company sold more than one million of its vegetarian sandwiches from the five branches it currently runs across the Emirates.
It invested "several million dirhams" with the fast food industry's tier-one consultants including global franchising leader Francorpto to transform falafel from a pushcart or corner cafeteria concept to a leading, franchise-worthy fast food brand.
"Our overall aim is to elevate falafel to the regional and ultimately international standing which it deserves as one of the Middle East's most traditional and delicious snacks, and through franchising and further
investment, we anticipate that Just Falafel can be a home-grown success on a global scale for the food and beverage sector," he added.
Bitar and Just Falafel's Emirati founding partner Alia Al-Mazroui have received keen interest in franchise opportunities, with the first franchised outlet expected to open in one of Dubai's busiest malls in the first half of 2011.
From two initial stores in Abu Dhabi, Just Falafel now owns and operates shops in Al Barsha, Bur Dubai and at Galleries Lafayette in Dubai Mall, catering to the region's cosmopolitan audiences with sandwiches inspired by Lebanon, Greece, Mexico, India, Italy and the Emirates.
A falafel is a ball or patty made from ground chickpeas and/or fava beans. Falafel is usually served in a pita, which acts as a pocket, or wrapped in a flatbread known as lafa. The falafel balls are topped with salads, pickled vegetables and hot sauce, and drizzled with tahini-based sauces. Falafel balls may also be eaten alone as a snack or served as part of a mezze.